Japanese ingredients for your healthy life

What is katsuobushi?

Introduction to katsuobushi

Imagine a food that not only has a wonderful natural power to transform a nice dish to a great dish, but is also great for you with numerous health benefits. Well, youfre in luck because there is such a food and it has a rather long but hopefully memorable name gkatsuobushih.


You may have come across this from time to time when enjoying Japanese food, perhaps you knew it, perhaps not. For many people, the first time katsuobushi catches their eye is when they are served a warm Japanese dish and see lots of something that looks a lot like pencil shavings wriggling about on their plate. Well, I for one remember such an experience and remember the joy of learning that nothing was still alive on my plate. Katsuobushi is dried bonito shavings and it is very, very, very good for you.


This is a food of vital importance to the Japanese diet and palate, it combines many qualities of what the Japanese consider to be important in a food. The taste is something that could only come from the sea, it is strong tasting without shocking the taste buds, it has so many health benefits that Ifll need a whole paragraph just to list them all, itfs easy to buy, conveniently packed and just so easy to include in meals.

How its made, bought and used

To make katsuobushi, bonito are caught, gutted and filleted so that you are just left with the bonito fillet. They are then put into large specially designed contraptions that keep them in water just below boiling point for around an hour or so then they are deboned. The next stage is vital as these fillets are then smoked. Although methods vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, the basic process is that they are put into smokers for 5 hours or so and then taken out allowing the moisture to rise from the fish fillet. Because of all the smoke on them for so long they do tend to get quite black with a large built up of tar, during this whole process the tar is continually scrapped off. After repeating this over and over for weeks (and this does sometimes go on for a month) the fillets are then sun dried. Manufacturers use mold for this part, they spray special cultures on the fillets and leave them in a culture room, and this removes any further moisture and ferments them. You are then left with a completely dry and smoked fillet of bonito. By this stage, the fillet has usually shed around 75% of its original weight and is as hard as wood, clashing a couple of them together makes a sound like clashing rocks. Some of the really expensive types can repeat this process over and over for months or even a year or two. Pretty remarkable dedication to the cause of making good food I say, I can certainly tell you that gstandardh ones will do the trick so you donft have to pay too much to enjoy this wonderful food.


There are two ways that Japanese people buy katsuobushi. The first is to buy whole fillets and keep on hand in your home. When needed, people make their own shavings using a special shaving board called a hanakatsuo which looks reasonably similar to a wood plane. This way, you shave just enough off and put the rest away. The second and by far the most prominent way nowadays is just to buy pre shaved bags from the shop. With so many variations on use, katsuobushi comes in a large range of sizes. The small bags have very fine shavings which are perfect for finely sprinkling on dishes like okonomiyaki and udon noodles. The big bags contain larger shavings that are more appropriate when making dashi (Japanese broth) but is also used in regular cooking too.


If katsuobushi had a middle name it would be versatility. Given itfs subtle yet refined ever so slightly fishy flavour (without being overpowering in the least) it can be added to a huge variety of dishes adding another layer of complexity of flavour without detracting from the other flavours. This is is what makes it so useful and easy to use, itfs part of the flavour team so to speak and wants to get on with everyone else in the mealc Katsuobushi is often used as a simple topping for meals like okonomiyaki (Japanese style savoury pancakes), udon noodles and takoyaki. It is finely sprinkled on cold tofu, chopped fresh ginger and soy sauce to make a magnificent side dish. Very often it is is added into onigiri (Japanese rice balls) either in the centre on its own or mixed in with the rice adding just enough taste to brighten the rice ball up while enhancing its nutritional qualities incredibly. These are just a few of the ways it is included in Japanese dishes, once the taste is acquired, it is hard not to use in everything!

Itfs so good for you...

Katsuobushi has numerous health benefits, making it an integral part of the Japanese staple diet.
Bonito fish are made up of 25% protein, they are extremely rich in vitamin B12, niacin, iron and taurine giving them many essential health benefits, the highest concentrations of the parts containing the most health benefits can be found on the part of the meat that is near the spine of the fish, this part is usually a deep red colour. Because bonito is rich in inosine acid due to its large amounts of protein, it has a particularly strong and delicious savoury flavour. Just like with the other ingredients in dashi, there are substantial health benefits. Bonito dashi helps to prevent hypertension, relaxes the eyes, strengthens liver function, prevents arteriosclerosis and can help with fatigue because of its health benefits. It is said in Japan that eating bonito and bonito dashi regularly will allow for a long and healthy life because of its health benefits. So there you have it, itfs an instant winner with anyone raising kids or looking to keep their own health up. If you have this everyday it will certainly health your general health.


So, as we can see katuobushi is a real winner. If youfve never tried it, I hope you now realize that itfs 100% worth a try. With so many health benefits and ways to enhance flavour in meals it canft help but make its way into your kitchen a regular place in your heart.